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Scene 4

Verona. A street.

(Romeo; Mercutio; Benvolio; Maskers; Torch-Bearers)

Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio and a few others approach the Capulets’ house, wearing masks and intent on crashing the party. Romeo is melancholy, and uneasy, having had a premonitory dream; Mercutio takes the mention of dreams as an excuse to embark on a fantastical riff on the subject. This does not cheer Romeo up, and he still fears. (120 lines)

Enter Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio, with five or six other Maskers; Torch-Bearers.


What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?

Or shall we on without apology?


The date is out of such prolixity:

We’ll have no Cupid hoodwink’d with a scarf,

Bearing a Tartar’s painted bow of lath,

Scaring the ladies like a crow-keeper,

Nor no without-book prologue, faintly spoke

After the prompter, for our entrance;

But let them measure us by what they will,

We’ll measure them a measure and be gone.


Give me a torch, I am not for this ambling;

Being but heavy, I will bear the light.


Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.


Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes

With nimble soles, I have a soul of lead

So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.


You are a lover, borrow Cupid’s wings,

And soar with them above a common bound.


I am too sore enpierced with his shaft

To soar with his light feathers, and so bound

I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe;

Under love’s heavy burden do I sink.


And, to sink in it, should you burden love—

Too great oppression for a tender thing.


Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,

Too rude, too boist’rous, and it pricks like thorn.


If love be rough with you, be rough with love;

Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.

Give me a case to put my visage in,

Puts on a mask.

A visor for a visor! What care I

What curious eye doth cote deformities?

Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.


Come knock and enter, and no sooner in,

But every man betake him to his legs.


A torch for me. Let wantons light of heart

Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels.

For I am proverb’d with a grandsire phrase,

I’ll be a candle-holder and look on:

The game was ne’er so fair, and I am done.


Tut, dun’s the mouse, the constable’s own word.

If thou art Dun, we’ll draw thee from the mire

Of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stickest

Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho!


Nay, that’s not so.


I mean, sir, in delay

We waste our lights in vain, like lights by day!

Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits

Five times in that ere once in our five wits.


And we mean well in going to this mask,

But ’tis no wit to go.


Why, may one ask?


I dreamt a dream tonight.


And so did I.


Well, what was yours?


That dreamers often lie.


In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.


O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes

In shape no bigger than an agot-stone

On the forefinger of an alderman,

Drawn with a team of little atomi

Over men’s noses as they lie asleep.

Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,

Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,

Time out a’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.

Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,

The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,

Her traces of the smallest spider web,

Her collars of the moonshine’s wat’ry beams,

Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,

Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,

Not half so big as a round little worm

Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid.

And in this state she gallops night by night

Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;

O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on cur’sies straight;

O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;

O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,

Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,

Because their breath with sweetmeats tainted are.

Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,

And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;

And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail

Tickling a parson’s nose as ’a lies asleep,

Then he dreams of another benefice.

Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,

And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,

Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,

Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon

Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,

And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two,

And sleeps again. This is that very Mab

That plats the manes of horses in the night,

And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,

Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes.

This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,

That presses them and learns them first to bear,

Making them women of good carriage.

This is she—


Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!

Thou talk’st of nothing.


True, I talk of dreams,

Which are the children of an idle brain,

Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,

Which is as thin of substance as the air,

And more inconstant than the wind, who woos

Even now the frozen bosom of the north,

And, being anger’d, puffs away from thence,

Turning his side to the dew-dropping south.


This wind you talk of blows us from ourselves:

Supper is done, and we shall come too late.


I fear, too early, for my mind misgives

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars

Shall bitterly begin his fearful date

With this night’s revels, and expire the term

Of a despised life clos’d in my breast

By some vile forfeit of untimely death.

But He that hath the steerage of my course

Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen!


Strike, drum.

They march about the stage and stand to one side.


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